BURLINGTON, Vt. – Bernie Sanders’ stepdaughter is hoping the city that launched her stepfather’s political career nearly 40 years ago will show her the same love in her run for mayor.
Carina Driscoll, the former city council member and state legislator, who now runs the Vermont Woodworking School, is challenging incumbent Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger, who is seeking his third three-year term in the March 6 election.
Another independent and political newcomer, Infinite Culcleasure, is also in the race.
From her campaign office in the working class neighbourhood of the lakeside college city of about 43,000, Driscoll speaks with some of the same conviction as Sanders about her community and the role of the mayor’s office, but has said she is her own candidate. She has the backing of the Progressive Party, described as a people-powered party engaged in grassroots organizing.
“Being Bernie’s daughter is one small piece, but it’s an important piece because it helps people understand the vision for Burlington that I’m talking about,” she told The Associated Press. “I am very committed to these values and ideals of a progressive city and we have drifted far too far from that. For me, it was a choice of quietly letting that continue or turning us around. And that is what I’m trying to do.”
She said under Weinberger, the city has catered to private investment rather than advocate for residents’ vision of the city.
Weinberger disagrees, saying in most major initiatives, the voters have gotten the ultimate say. He said his office has turned around Burlington’s troubled financial past — mostly related to a city telecom project — worked to rebuild public trust and improved the northern waterfront and sidewalks and roads.
“It’s our job to get great public input, but it’s also our job to deliver results and I think that’s what we’ve done over six years,” he said.
City Council President Jane Knodell, a Progressive, said residents are evaluating Driscoll on her own merits.
The candidate has faced questions about a federal investigation of a real estate deal her mother, Jane Sanders, was involved in as president of the now-defunct Burlington College. The investigation is looking into allegations that Sanders made fraudulent claims and promises while seeking $10 million in financing for the real estate deal.
A Sanders’ family spokesman said the allegations were politically motivated attacks.
The college closed in 2016 after struggling under the weight of the purchase of property and buildings it made in 2010 during Sanders’ presidency.
Driscoll volunteered for her stepfather’s 2016 presidential Democratic primary run. When she announced her candidacy for mayor, Sanders said he and his wife wanted to be respectful of her desire to do this on her own.
While she said she was on her own political path, she posted a photo with him as a campaign ad on social media, saying she was Bernie’s daughter, and “one of thousands of people across the country inspired by Bernie to lead during this challenging time.”